The Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association (LACEA) or Asociación de Economía de América Latina y el Caribe (AEALC) was founded in July of 1992 in order to encourage greater professional interaction and foster increased dialogue among researchers and practitioners who focus their work on the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean. The idea of creating such an association of economists was first put into action during the April 1991 Washington, D.C. meetings of the Latin American Studies Association by Michael Conroy, then a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin. At a meeting attended by close to forty participants, a seven-member Organizing Committee, led by Nora Lustig, was appointed. LACEA has since grown to an organization with more than 1000 active members.
The Organizing Committee quickly obtained enthusiastic support for the idea of creating an association from a dozen leading scholars in the field. This early support was critical to the success of the efforts to create LACEA. Soon after, the Organizing Committee identified the initial Executive Committee, drafted the association’s bylaws, and applied for membership of the Allied Social Science Association (ASSA), officially launching LACEA.Over one hundred prominent economists from throughout the region were invited and accepted the invitation to be charter members of LACEA. The first Executive Committee was selected and Albert Fishlow, then professor at the University of California, Berkeley was invited to become the first President of LACEA. Nora Lustig, then at the Brookings Institution, was selected as Vice-President, and Darryl McLeod, professor at Fordham University, was invited to become the Treasurer of the association. The other members of the Executive Committee were: Edmar Bacha, Carlos Bazdresch, Guillermo Calvo, Michael Conroy, Vittorio Corbo, Carmen Diana Deere, Sebastian Edwards, Raul Feliz, Daniel Heymann, Ricardo Hausmann, Patricio Meller, and John Welch. On July 1, 1994 the charter members officially approved LACEA's bylaws and its first Executive Committee.
Under Albert Fishlow’s presidency (1993-1997) LACEA became a member of the Allied Social Science Association (in January, 1993) and soon began to host sessions at the annual meetings of the American Economics Association, the Latin American Studies Association and the Econometric Society/Latin American Meetings.
In 1996, LACEA began to host annual international meetings of its own. The first meeting was hosted by ITAM, in Mexico City, and featured 157 papers and over 200 participants. The 1997 meeting was held in Bogota, Colombia and was co-organized by Fedesarrollo and Universidad de los Andes. At this meeting, close to 250 participants were there to see the presentation of 208 papers. The 1998 annual meeting was held at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1998 and featured 238 papers. In 1999 the meeting occurred in Santiago, Chile, and was organized by the Instituto de Economía de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and the Centro de Economía Aplicada de la Universidad de Chile. At this meeting, 279 papers were presented. The most recent meetings were held in: Paris, France, hosted by The American University of Paris (2005); Mexico D.F hosted by the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (2006); Bogotá, Colombia, hosted by Fedesarrollo and the Department of Economics, Universidad de los Andes (2007); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hosted by IMPA (Instituto Nacional De Matemática Pura E Aplicada) (2008) and Buenos Aires, Argentina hosted by Universidad Torcuato Di Tella (2009).
Under Nora Lustig’s presidency (1998-1999), LACEA expanded its activities in several directions. In conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, it created the Network on Inequality and Poverty in 1998. It also started the Network on Political Economy and a series of seminars on International Economics and Finance, a joint initiative with the Center for International Economics at the University of Maryland. All these activities were carried out in conjunction with academic centers in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1999, at the Fourth Annual Meetings in Santiago, LACEA announced the launching of a new academic Journal, Economia. Professor Andres Velasco was then the editor of the journal, which was modeled on the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity and Economic Policy. The first issue was released in 2000. Another significant event in 1999 was the awarding of a major grant to LACEA from the Development Grant Facility of the World Bank. This grant is being used to support LACEA’s Annual Meetings, LACEA sponsored research Networks, and LACEA’s new journal.
Under Sebastian Edwards's presidency (2002-03), LACEA added the Inter-American Seminar on Economics to its list of sponsored activities. In addition, in 2002, LACEA held its annual meeting in Madrid, Spain, attracting researchers and scholars from Europe and broadening the LACEA network.